The following was written by one of our interns or apprentice who spent a week with us this summer on the farm. With 4 out of 5 Americans living in the city or suburbia a chance to experience farm life is rewarding! When the Bed & Breakfast opens this summer, you too can stay with the cows, although we won't make you work as much, unless you want to try out the Be A Dairy Farmer Challenge!
Thanks for visiting, living, and working with us Lewis. And thanks for sharing your experience with the world.
What do you want to call it? Duty? Responsibility? Fun? Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference. My experience at New Day Dairy might’ve been a mix of all three, and I can’t tell you how I felt about the work I did. I honestly don’t know… But I can tell you that it’ll keep you very occupied, grateful, and surprisingly happy.
I’ll start from the beginning. I’m a city kid from Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve never lived anywhere else, unless you count vacations. I don’t know farm life. My one experience came with my great uncle on his ranch, where I rode a horse and almost got kicked by a couple. That’s it. So when my dad, after reading Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, concluded that I needed to work on a farm before high school. When I heard the plan, I thought: DARN.
Mr. Sasse is a cool guy. I read a lot about him, and I’ve met him person several times through the homeschool community. And all of a sudden, it seemed to me that he’d wrecked my life. Finding out I’d have to wake up early and work all day sounded dumb. I’d expected and dreaded for months the 5:00 mornings and cow manure I wasn’t too excited. Then the day came.
Sure, there was cow manure. And yes, I had to wake up early to do things that didn’t seem half as good as sleeping for a couple more hours. But it wasn’t torture. It was learning, working, and responsibility I’d never known before.
My first discovery didn’t have anything to do with cows. MR. BOLIN’S CATS WEREN’T FAT, LAZY, OR CRANKY. THEY ACTUALLY DID STUFF. City cats are spoiled with serious attitudes. I’ve never liked cats. I still don’t. But I did enjoy those cats. They abide by a mostly milk diet and do productive things like killing birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, as well as being very entertaining with their cow interactions.
Second, I found out that life on a farm had ups as well as downs. My nose couldn’t stand up to the smell in some places. I was sore from hard work. I didn’t shut feed windows correctly, resulting in three young calves escaping. All three were eventually rounded up, but I was still disappointed that I hadn’t done it right. If you think those are bad, wait until you hear about the downs! TOTALLY KIDDING. The ups were great. I got to hack through foliage with a machete. WIN. I got to herd stubborn cows that wouldn’t milk. FUN. I got to witness a dramatic storm and clean the resulting mess. STILL FUN.
With the surprising dutiful fun, I was able to take on responsibilities that I don’t take in mind to often. Going to bed at a reasonable time, for instance. And I fell asleep in five minutes. At home, it can take me hours. I got to man loose calves when a fence gave way and Mr. Bolin was away breeding maturing cows. I got to step over electric fences. All of these things gave me a sense of responsibility that was part fun, part labor, and part necessity.
Bulls and calves were born. Augers were run. Tractors were driven. Each night, The Bolin family was mindful that I was not a seemingly never-tiring workhorse like Mr. Bolin. I was able to experience the farm without misery.
If you want to be an apprentice at New Day Dairy, let them know. All you’ll need is a pair of boots and a willing attitude. They’ll handle the rest. And they’ll do a good job.
Zucchini... all of a sudden there's so much of it!
Adding cheese and baking it is one of the easiest and yummiest ways to enjoy this summer favorite!
I originally got this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen and have been enjoying it with my own kitchen tweaks for weeks now!
Here's what you'll need:
Here's what to do:
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Spray an 9" x 13" baking dish with olive oil or non-stick spray (but if you forget it'll be ok - guess how I know!). Wash the squash and cut in quarter-moon slices.
Combine the sliced squash, basil, green onions/chieves, dried thyme, garlic powder, and both kinds of cheese and stir together until the veggies are coated with cheese and the herbs are well-distributed. I do this right in the 9x13 pan, which means less dishes! Season with salt and ground black pepper. Bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes.
When the zucchini is almost cooked, take it out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese on top. Put the dish back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and nicely browned. Zucchini should be fully cooked. Serve hot.
Keeps well in the fridge & heats up in the microwave the next day!
One of my kids will eat this and the other is not a fan but #DairymanDan & I both love it! And I love that I don't have to shred my zucchini for this recipe!
What's your go to zucchini recipe? Especially ones that don't need shredding!
"Buy Local." "Buy direct from the farmer." "Whatever you do, don't buy from Walmart."
This is what we've been hearing on the street, social media, and more as Walmart's vertical integration of milk has made ripples & waves among dairy farmers and consumers.
That means we get the question - "Where can I buy your milk?" But the real question that's being asked is "How can I support farmers, especially family farms?"
For the few farms that both milk the cows & bottle the milk right there on their farm, you can buy milk at their farm stand and sometimes in the local grocery story. And if that works for you, it's great for you & for that local farmer.
But honestly that might not be the way a lot of us shop. I understand, I'm a busy mom and can't stop at every little farm stand. I've got a schedule and it's full - I just need to pick up all of our food for the week during my once a week grocery shopping trip.
So where then can you buy the milk that our cows make so you can support our family's farm?
Well, since we don't bottle our own milk or have the expertise to turn it into cheese or ice cream or cream cheese, we've joined with other family farmers and together have hired folks who are experts in those areas to take the milk from our cows and get it to your local grocery store shelf (or restaurant or school as lots of food ends up there too!).
We're part of Prairie Farms as members owners. After #DairymanDan feeds & cares for our cows & Rita the robot milks them, Luke, our milk truck driver comes & picks up the milk and usually brings it (along with milk from other neighboring farms) to a cheese plant in Luana to be made into Swiss Cheese & Cream Cheese.
But I'm grabbing a gallon of milk, not Swiss cheese...
Yes, that's right but if you're picking up a gallon of Prairie Farms milk it means it's made from milk that comes from our friend Jason's cows, for example. He lives nearer the plant that bottles Prairie Farms milk in Dubuque so his milk truck driver usually takes his milk to that plant. Since we work together you're helping us both (along with all the other family farms that are part of Prairie Farms). It doesn't matter if you buy a gallon of Prairie Farms milk (or their many other products) or a block of Swiss Valley Cheese (which isn't Prairie Farms branded but is made by Prairie Farms).
Throughout the United States there are many dairy farmer owned cooperatives that sell products in your local grocery store, sometimes branded the same as their cooperative name sometimes branded differently. Do you know other dairy cooperatives in other areas of the country? What brand should you look for in the store near you to help those dairy farmers?
Some other brands, like A&E or Blue Bunny (and even Great Value Walmart milk) here in Iowa, are milk processors that buy milk from individual dairy farmers and although they have contracts, unfortunately if A&E or Blue Bunny decides they don't need the milk that a farmer produces they can not renew the contract & stop buying that farmers' milk. When dairy farmers own the cooperative, that can't happen because the dairy farmers & the board they elect are in control.
Is there anything else I can do?
The most important thing is to eat dairy foods! In reality 97% of dairy farms are family owned & ultimately even that Great Value Walmart milk likely comes from a family dairy farm. To support our family specifically, buy Prairie Farms products whenever you can!
If you just want to make sure that you're buying local milk and milk products you can check the number on the package and if it starts with a "19" it means it was packaged & made into cheese or butter or some other dairy product at a plant in Iowa! At "Where is my milk from?" you can even enter that plant number & find out specifically where it was packaged!
One more way to help is to donate to the Great American Milk Drive who donates milk to your local food pantry. If you shop at Hy-Vee in the Midwest just tell the cashier to add an extra gallon to your bill when you check out!
Thanks for caring about family farms & making choices with your wallet. It's easy to pick up the loss leader $1.48 gallon of milk (I know because I'm so tempted too!) & if buying that means your family can enjoy more dairy products than go ahead & grab it. But we, as Prairie Farms farmers owners, would love for you to enjoy Prairie Farms products & support us in the process! Thank you!
P.S. If you want to know more about how we're part of a dairy cooperative check out this post!
If you live pretty much anywhere in the US, I'm sure you're aware that it's cold. Not just cold, it's REALLY cold! Like -17 degrees cold overnight here in Iowa!
My mom called the other night and you know who she was concerned about? Our baby calves. I think she knew we were probably fine & keeping warm but didn't know how we were keeping the calves warm. And you might be wondering the same thing - how do we keep our calves warm in this weather?
Era had a baby calf late last Saturday night and we aptly named her Extreme because of the extreme cold! Since our cows calve in the maternity area in the barn year around (warmer in winter & cooler in summer!) she was born into temps in the mid-30's which cows don't mind at all. Era licked her off as soon as she was born & then #DairymanDan made sure to dry her off even more with a towel.
Extreme then got to stay in the barn for a bit more than 24 hours to ensure she was completely dry before heading out to the cold. When #DairymanDan brought her out he made sure she was nestled down & cozy in her cornstalk bales.
I wanted a cute picture of a calf snuggled down in her stalks here but #DairymanDan said they also keep warm by moving & every time he'd try to sneak up & take a picture they'd jump up. Oh, well - you'll just have to imagine it!
It turns out calves are born with something called "brown fat" which helps keep calves warm too. We strategically place our huts facing south so that calves are protected from the north wind. Although Pam always keeps a close eye on each of our calves, in cold weather she pays even closer attention, as a skipped meal or any sign of illness can quickly become fatal. Obviously the calves' water freezes each day so we also make sure that they get a bucket of warm water in the middle of the day.
You might wonder why we don't bring them all inside, which I know I wondered at first. Bringing them inside, especially if it's not VERY well ventilated, can cause higher incidences of pneumonia & other sicknesses because they're sharing stale air with each other. Over the years Dan & his parents have learned that even in extreme cold we can take better care of our calves by caring well for them outside, even if it means we have to work out in the bitter cold!
We're doing our best to keep our calves warm but we are looking forward to this cold snap breaking as it does take more work to get machinery running, care for our animals, & stay warm ourselves!
How are you staying warm?
This is the first post from a series of posts in November 2017.
Grati-mooooo-d, because being thankful definitely improves your mooooood!
Old towels & corn stalk bedding that help keep newborn calves dry & warm!
Raising kids on the farm... Working, learning, & playing together!
Big concrete alleys for the kids to ride bikes in... especially since I grew up on a gravel road & always wanted some pavement!
Fall = Pumpkin
Cows = Milk = Cream Cheese
Yummy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins
This recipe is a keeper!
Opportunities to learn about life, which includes new calves being born (& in this case experiencing it with cousins).
The generations that have come before us & how they've shaped us!
I hope we have this much fun at our 60th anniversary!
#DairymanDan's ability to fix things - especially Rita the robot when she breaks down (rare but it does happen!)
How Dave & Pam have not only adapted but embraced the technology we now use daily, including all the data on our smartphones.
Pam's hard work & careful care of our calves as well as helping in so many other ways from cow care to watching grandkids to her famous track bars & cakes!
This awesome 5 month baby who has made the transition to a family of 5 so easy (so far!).
Today we say thank you to those who have served & are serving in our armed forces. Thank you for your selfless commitment & sacrifice!
P.S. We loved learned more about the military when Becoming Bailey & her army recruiter husband came to visit for the Be A Dairy Farmer Challenge!
I love sharing & learning with others about our lives, especially when they affect me like the military that protects me or me sharing about how the food you eat is made.
We all have important & interconnected roles and understanding them helps us all live more fulfilling & less judgemental lives!
Great tech support from AMS Galaxy USA Robotic Milking when something goes wrong with Rita the robot!
Just last night Dave & Pam had to call while Dan was away & they were able to help them get Rita back to milking cows!
Here is Dan in spring 2015 graduating from tech school in Pennsylvania at training school located on a working farm!
Neighbors who we can trade with - stalk bedding bales for manure!
Our calves get try bedding throughout the winter & our neighbor's field gets nutrient rich fertilizer.... a win-win!
Our veterinarians! We have one of the best teams anyone could ask for!
They're on call 24/7 & have not only helped us with sick & hurt cows but also give us great advice about general health & care for our girls!
In this photo from early last year the vet is giving a check up to a cow. I don't have lots of up close pictures of vet work for the same reason I probably don't want to see pictures from your last doctor visit!
An opportunity to share our cows, barn, & Rita the robot with Bill Northey, our Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.
Growing up a city-girl, after marrying my dairy farmer husband and spending a few years abroad, we came home to expand the family dairy farm and want to share our journey & farm life with you!